The sun reflecting off my platinum-gold pen Max gave me for my sixtieth birthday yesterday, hurts my eyes. I could move away from my favourite writing desk. Or use another pen. I hear dad’s voice in my head saying ‘always use the right tool for the job.’
I sigh. Only because I could doesn’t mean that I will. Since the occasion of my writing is of high consequence, I decide against one of the Bic pens I keep in ten-packs in my drawer. The Lamborghini of pens should be the right tool for this job. I lower the blinds to block out the sun. Who would have thought that writing my will would be so hard? I’m not sick and I’m not dying anytime soon. At least not that I know of. But after yesterday – all it took was a phone call – one thing is clear: everyone wants me dead.
My birthday party was in full swing, we had dined, danced and laughed and it was getting late. My agent lives in a different time zone and rings at all hours of the day.
‘This could take a while,’ I said, excusing myself and withdrew into my study to take my agent’s call. Our grand old house has old-fashioned air vents in some of the rooms, including the dining room and my study. I used to listen in on conversations from here, using great dialogue snippets for my books. I closed them during the short call. My agent just wanted to let me know how much she loved the new manuscript and I wanted privacy.
‘You’re born to write murder mysteries with a horror bend! It’s new but I love it! This book will make Stephen King wish he’d written it!’
‘It won’t be the last, I promise,’ I assured her before hanging up. I opened the vent and was just about to join the others when I overheard the conversation in the other room,
‘As long as I get the island,’ Bella’s voice was subdued, ‘I don’t care who gets the houses, cars or whatever.'
‘No way, sis, the island is mine! You can visit but you can’t have it. I want to build a resort.'
‘With what money?’ Max chimed in. ‘I’m the husband, I will get the billions, not you.
‘All I’m saying I want the yacht. If I have that and the apartment in New York, you can keep the cash,’ Peter said.
‘Daddy, how can you give up so easily? Clarice voice was a pitch higher than usual.
‘You are her brother – you should get a bigger share than him! Everyone knows he’s been unfaithful to her, so why should he get anything?’
‘Hey, watch it, lady! You are in my house—’ Max raised his voice.
‘Your house? Mum bought it, not you. Therefore, it’s ours.’ Bella interrupted her father.
‘After the divorce, it’s going to be Bella’s and mine.’ Martin’s voice sounded smug.
‘What are you talking about?’ Max raised his voice.
‘About your pretty girlfriend in the condo in Santa Monica. We know all about it.’ Martin was like a cat playing with the mouse now. ‘I’m sure mum knows, too. The dog was a dead give-away, dad. 'If not, a short, anonymous letter with photo evidence will do the trick, wouldn’t you say?’
It was hard to breathe after that and everything became a blur. It was sickening to hear my family bickering about who gets what and why. As if they’re entitled to every house, every car, every yacht, the weekender cottage, the helicopter, the plane, the island that I have earned with every blood-milking word I ever penned. I had no idea. But then, I'm the first to admit that I'm more involved with my characters, more astute to pick their flaws.
‘Terrible migraine,’ I said when I returned in the living room and excused myself for the rest of the day. I needed time to think. Time to plot.
I know exactly when Max’s affair started. Max was never one to buy flowers for no reason; instead, he started buying me expensive pens every time a book came out, to make up for his guilty pleasures. The pens got more expensive over time. After having published forty-two novels – most of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list – Max had given me this classy BMW among the ink-bearing, word-smashing, paper-defiling swords. At the time I thought it obscene to use a pen just for signing my name with that cost more than my first real car, a brand-new Golf I had bought with my first royalties. It seemed extravagant, profligate - decadent.
‘Sign your books in style,’ Max had insisted when he handed it to me in a velveteen-lined box to mark the signing of the 5th film contract for my latest fantasy trilogy.
Turns out, it wasn’t the right tool for the job after all. It didn’t come with an ink cartridge, which Max in his attentiveness, forgot to check. After a short, embarrassing moment, I signed my multi-million-dollar contract with a ballpoint pen, presumably from a 10-pack handed to me eagerly by the assistant.
Max puts up a nice front - the supportive and doting husband. Clearly, he thinks I don’t know about his girlfriend in Santa Monica, who happens to have a condo in walking distance to our winter residence. I never thought him the sugar daddy type. I got suspicious when he bought Milly, a Labrador pup a few years ago (he never allowed the children to have any pets) ‘to start a healthier life-style’ with dog-walks on the beach,’ he said, knowing that I don’t go for walks. I followed him one day and saw the two lovebirds playing chase with Milly. The woman looked expensive. She must eat up all his money he’s earned as an engineer. If I die before him, he can move in with her.
My mind returns to the things that were said in the dining room. Do they actually plan my murder? That would be the ultimate irony. The queen of murder mysteries killed by her own family. The thought seems preposterous – yet the vultures are waiting. As if they’re knowing what I don’t - that my days are numbered, they sit and wait and talk as if I don’t have ears. How to split MY fortune, how to separate MY riches into theirs. Like a pack of hyenas. No. This is not the plot of my life. I can do better than that.
What did my brother Peter say to me when I, stranded in Kenya as a nineteen-year-old, was sick with malaria in a field hospital with natural ‘air conditioning’ generated by only two windows? ‘Sorry mate, you’ve got to ride this out. I can’t risk getting sick.’ He was working on a mine expansion, and wouldn’t let me stay. He didn’t visit me once in that hospital nor did he pay for my ticket home when I asked him for money. I pulled through, no thanks to him.
Now, he wants the yacht.
Clarice, his daughter, and my children were never close. She once came to Bella’s birthday party but I was out of a job and Max still at uni and we made do with backyard games, homemade cake and handmade decorations. There was no jumping castle as she expected. She threw a tantrum, asked for her dad to pick her up. She left before the party was over. Since my first real success as a thriller author she never missed a party on our island or a book launch at the high-end places NY and LA; Keanu Reeves came to one of them, they’d made a movie with Keanu in the lead role. Even if she had to fly, she’d come, hoping to meet Chris Hemsworth or Robert Pattinson.
Now, she wants the plane.
My children aren’t any different. They think the island together with its lovely
cottage built on it in the Agean sea, is something that naturally belongs to them because they spend more time there than anywhere else. Martin has had his first overdose there, partying with friends. Bella broke her leg jumping off the roof into the swimming pool. Clearly, the island is a place for bad decision-making for both.
None of them will get the island.
I lean over the white paper. I start to write. The platinum-gold pen scratches ink-less over the paper. I chuck it in the wastepaper basket and pull out a Bic pen from the ten-pack in my drawer. Simple and reliable, the words flow in determined lines onto the paper. I sign and call my lawyer to make an appointment.
My family won’t like it, but numerous charities will celebrate and go worry-free for decades. Milly will inherit the island and after her death it will become an animal shelter for rescued pets and wildlife.
I lock the door and won’t see anybody until my new manuscript is done. A new horror murder mystery, involving a fancy pen as the murder weapon found on an island, a plane crash and a disappearance from a yacht. The main suspects are two middle aged socialites, a brother and a sister. Until they find the real murderer.
My agent will love it.
I fish out the platinum-gold pen and grab it like a knife. Every job needs the right tool. I can see the film log line: Murder she wrote. Murder she did. Based on a true story.
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Your comment on my story motivated me to write again! It's very effective, I should do it sometime (when I lose it again) but in the beginning, sixtieth, I think it's better if you used the number (60th) I love your concept, though. Keep writing!
Oh, Jamela, I'm glad to hear that you got back into writing again:-) Thank you for the edit - someone else also pointed it out and I totally agree. Thank you for your kind comment and for reading my story. Happy writing!
Hey Freddy! I really like your concepts, the formatting and the conversations between your characters. Totally nice read on a Thursday afternoon. Like you, editing my own stuff is not my strong suit - and I make small rookie errors constantly. Mainly, because I hurry. After reading through twice, I found your story in need of very little editing. As a former newspaper editor, I wish you had been one of my reporters. But what I do see are the same things I do - the just getting in there and writing, and then maybe doing a skim throug...
Oh ... I think this is writer's choice, but maybe 60th should be 60th and not spelled out?
yes, you are absolutely right...It looks better, too. Thank you! :-)
Hi Becky, Thank you so much for reading my piece. Your feedback and the kind words are very uplifting! Yes, I agree I do have to allow for more editing time - I do rush it. I will try to write my next story on the first day and then I have six days to edit. Thank you for pointing out the "double quote" issue. I'm based in Australia which uses the British-English style of single quotes in dialogue and double-quotation marks for quotes like the TV series' title. Maybe I should use the American standard, since this seems to be more common ...
I think it is writer's choice in it all. I loved your story!
I sigh. Only because I could doesn’t mean that I will. Either use italics or single quotes or something to offset 'I could' and 'I will.' And you could lose 'that,' since it's a filler word. ‘With what money?’ Max chimed in. ‘I’m the husband, I will get the billions, not you. - you're a bit sloppy through this part about closing your quotation marks. In the closing quip, you are (perhaps without knowing) paying homage to a US TV series from the 80's and early 90's- "Murder She Wrote" which starred Angela Lansbury. I liked this before...
Thanks, Charles, for your keen eye and kind comments - I totally appreciate your input! Editing is not my strong suit and I find submitting on reedsy a true challenge having only one week to write a new piece and edit (I'm sure most writers feel the pressure, but it's great and one of the reasons why I'm here). I will try and save two days for editing next time - I don't seem to see things straight after writing a piece. You and so many others submit on a weekly basis - I'm truely in awe! Don't know how you do it AND submit well-written, wel...